Our technology editor answers your trickiest tech questions
Question My all-copper landline broadband is very poor. I was wondering if I can purchase a 4G router anywhere, separately from a contract, and use an ‘all-you-can-eat’ data Sim with this router. I have a 4G signal from Eir and Three. Any suggestions? — John McCarthy
Yes — you can do this, although see below for a few considerations.
There are several models that will do the job here — TP-Link’s N300 Wireless 4G LTE Router (€110 from Harvey Norman) or Huawei’s B535 (€140 from Amazon but a little cheaper if you buy with a Three prepay Sim card) are both decent and will stretch your 4G signal from a Sim card up to about 10 metres (33 feet) from the router.
The only thing I’d double-check before going down this route is the strength of the 4G signal in the spot where you intend to put the router. As I’m sure you know and have already tested — but this might not be obvious to some other readers — a strong 4G signal outside your door or at your window might not be a strong signal in a corner of your sitting room or under a hall table.
The way of checking this is to get a phone with either an Eir or Three Sim card in it and run a speed test (by downloading the free ‘Speed Test’ app on your iPhone or Android phone). That will not only tell you the speed of the 4G signal (it really should be above 10Mbs to be worth using as even a basic broadband substitute) but also the quality of it (in the ‘ping’ time — lower is better).
The only other element I’d consider is how much data you use. A normal household’s monthly data use these days is anywhere between 250GB and 750GB of data, depending on how many people are in the house and how often you watch things like Netflix in 4K quality on your TV.
If that sounds like you, you will need an ‘all-you-can-eat’ package. But if it’s more modest than that, you’ll save a ton of money by getting a Sim card from Gomo or 48. Gomo, (€15 a month) is owned by Eir while 48 (€11 a month) is owned by Three. Both services use the same 4G network as their owners, but for a lot less. Both Sim cards can be simply stuck into the router and switched on for instant broadband.
Recommendation: Huawei B535 (€140 from Amazon.co.uk or cheaper from Three with prepay Sim card)
In the past month I’ve received two scam calls on my smartphone, both claiming that I had a fine to pay. I’ve had scam texts before but this is the first time it’s been a phone call. I tried to report it to Three but they said it’s a matter for the gardaí. Is there anything I can do to stop these calls as one of them was very realistic and almost had me. Also, how are they getting my number? I don’t use the internet much.
— Richard O’Brien
I’m afraid you’re not the only one. Scam calls to both mobiles and landlines have risen hugely this year, with scam texts — directly to your mobile or over WhatsApp — also a real problem.
The frustrating part is that they can look so real and have a decent chance of appearing to relate to something you might have done over recent weeks. For example, a common one is a fake message or call pretending to be from An Post or Amazon or a delivery courier firm, claiming that something that is to be delivered to you is being held pending a customs or delivery fee.
There are some generic safety measures you can apply in your phone’s settings, such as disallowing or blocking unknown numbers. There are also some apps that help, such as Hiya. This cuts down the number of spam or scam calls, partially based on recognised dodgy numbers.
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen
€99 from Google Store
Google’s updated 7-inch smart screen speaker has one interesting new feature — sleep sensing. If you put it on your bedside table, its sensors tell you how you slept. (There’s no camera on it, so there’s no visual footage recorded.) It works somewhat well, although it seems mainly based on you lying still. In other developments, the sound is much improved.
Apple iPhone 12 purple
€929 from retailers
Apple has a ‘new’ iPhone 12 model. Its new feature is… a colour (purple). Otherwise, it’s technically the same iPhone 12 the company released six months ago. My long-term review of that phone (updated and viewable independent.ie) concludes that it’s a very reliable, well-designed smartphone with great cameras. Its only real drawback is average battery life.